Traditionally, when a new royal is born in England, the House Secretary and the Archbishop of Canterbury attend the birth. A framed birth announcement is placed on a golden easel outside of Buckingham Palace, and the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery sound a 41-gun salute. Around the globe, noble births have been celebrated with great ceremony. The birth of Jesus in Luke 2 presents a fascinating contradiction between the lowly and the lavish.
Joseph and the pregnant Mary traveled to Bethlehem to register as taxpayers. Mary probably did not have to make the trip, but her desire to be with Joseph when she gave birth may have compelled her to go. When they arrived, the town was crowded because of the census, and they could not find an inn with a vacancy. They took shelter, instead, in a stable or cave. The birth account is brief and direct: “She gave birth to her firstborn, a son” (v. 7). The modest nature of Jesus’ arrival was highlighted when Mary placed the baby in a manger.
But if the circumstances of Jesus’ birth were lowly, the announcement was anything but. This is the third angelic visit included in the book of Luke. This time the immediate audience was a band of shepherds, but the good news was intended for all people.
The angel used distinct titles to describe this baby. “Savior” reflected Jesus’ mission to deliver His people. “Messiah” meant anointed or promised one. And “Lord” revealed His authority over sin, evil, and death (v. 11). Suddenly, an entire choir of angels filled the sky, glorifying God. When the angels left, the shepherds hurried to find the babe, and—upon meeting Him—they too could not contain their joy. They spread the news, and everyone who heard their testimony was amazed.
>> Christmas records the First Advent or coming of Jesus. As we look to the Second Advent, the coming again of our Savior, may our response be renewed joy and a desire to share it with others.
You promised a Messiah, and You made His identity unmistakable at birth—a choir of angels proclaimed it! Father, equip us to carry on the work of the angels and the shepherds, proclaiming that the Messiah has come!